the ARTistry of ARThistory occasionally done ARTfully

De-gifting LACMA

Posted by gninja on January 12, 2008


Hey, if re-gifting can make it, so can its ‘de’ counterpart.

An article detailing trustee Eli Broad’s decision to rescind his gift of 2000 works of art to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was sent over my way by husband. An excerpt:

LACMA was poised to become the nation’s only encyclopedic museum — with collections ranging through all historical periods in every part of the globe — that would also have a major commitment to contemporary art. Since Broad, a LACMA trustee who occupies the stratosphere of the world’s contemporary collectors, won’t himself make the institutional pledge, that scheme has disintegrated…. When LACMA officials announced several years ago that Broad had pledged $50 million to build BCAM on its Wilshire Boulevard campus, his large collection was in the front of the art world’s collective mind. LACMA may be encyclopedic, but its strengths have never been in the modern sweep of 19th and 20th century art. For art after 1950, a Broad gift could make a huge difference.

It’s a jerk move, on the one hand, but on the other, he still gave the institution $50million. Any complaints about the donation-that-wasn’t bring to mind Tracy Jordan’s compensation for spending two days making a movie for Shaq: “A million dollars, a yellow Bentley and nothing!”

As I’ve indicated in at least one previous post, I do think it’s imperative that art be made visible to as many people as possible. But for more than just the sake of argument here, the dismay that this collector will not be donating his 2000 pieces to LACMA sounds far more related to the prestige of the institution than to the accessiblity of the art it would display. In fact, the public visibility of art is not mentioned once in the article.

Right. So the writer’s sympathies clearly lie in a place I don’t think has much pathos. That’s fine. A more intersting question, though, is what other models there mght be for displaying art (not in reproductions) to the public. I’m way out of my league here–this topic is not so much art history as it is business admin or something. But knowing that Broad probably won’t give his goods to LACMA, what alternatives are there (aside from the likely scenario that he’ll open up his own gallery)?

I’m posing this as a question with no intention of answering it. The point is to expose the critical outrage for what it is–bitterness about the future of a museum’s reputation.

Now that I think about it, the alternative Broad himself expressed doesn’t sound “nonsensical” to me at all.

Which brings us to Broad’s second nonsensical idea. He thinks museums should collectively share works of art — an administrative and curatorial nightmare, which makes museum professionals cringe — and that functioning as a “lending library” of art to institutions is “a new paradigm and a model for other private collectors.”

One Response to “De-gifting LACMA”

  1. masteroftheuniverse said

    I have a pretty decent art collection that deserves to be shared with the world. Since I’m selfish by nature, I won’t give up my art permanently until I’m in the grave. That being said, I have several pieces out on loan, and do post some of the pictures on my blog(more every week or so). Since my blog is about trading, it makes for a very eclectic mix in my blog.


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